9 Ways To Increase Sleep Quality & Why It's So Important

According to sleep statistics, 79% of Americans are getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night. 

Some further statistics taken from this study:

  • Women sleep longer than men

  • Men average 5 hours, 45 minutes, while women average 6 hours, 9 minutes

  • Americans typically go to bed at 10:21 p.m. and wake up at 7:41 a.m.

  • 30 minutes of exercise per day correlates with 14 extra minutes of sleep per night

  • 50% reported regularly using two or more sleep aids per night, such as prescription medications, over-the-counter sleeping pills, or herbal remedies/food supplements for sleep

  • Three or fewer cups of coffee didn’t notably affect average sleep time

  • Having more children seems to impact men’s sleep more than women’s

  • Excessive fatigue during the day and taking too long to fall asleep were the most common reported issues

Benefits of good quality sleep:

- Better cognitive function

- Decrease inflammation

- Easier ability to burn fat

- Reduces stress levels

- Increased testosterone 

- Maintains hormone balance

- Optimal insulin secretion

- Better digestion and nutrient absorption

- Increased performance

- Increased recovery 

Ways to improve sleep quality:

1) Get sufficient vitamin d: Vitamin D deficiencies lead to sleep disorders. To correct this, you have to be careful about the amount of vitamin D you take and when you take it. It's recommended to take 1000 IUs of Vitamin D-3 per 25 pounds of body weight, but not more than 10,000 IU’s." Take it in the morning because it temporarily pauses the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, so don’t take it at night.

2) Limit technology 30-60min before bed: If you use it at night time, use the F.lux setting to block the blue light. Technology and the light from it will just suppress melatonin and stimulate the brain.

3) Limit or omit the afternoon coffee: Researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine analyzed the sleep-disruptive effects of caffeine consumption at different lengths of time before bedtime. They found that caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quality and sleep quantity.

4) Contrast showers: Get in the shower, turn all the way on hot for 10 seconds, then switch to cold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat this 5-7x. Either do this or take a straight up cold shower. These are great for CNS recovery, sleep, and stress relief. 

5) Sleep in a very dark room: Any artificial lighting in your room while trying to go to sleep will only suppress melatonin and make it harder to go to sleep and stay asleep. 

6) Have the room set to a cooler temperature: For optimal sleep, specialists recommend a room temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. During the onset of sleep, you become disengaged from your surroundings and your body temperature drops. Sleeping in a cool environment helps facilitate sleep at this stage. Turning the thermostat below 54 degrees or above 75 degrees can cause sleep disruptions.

7) Go to bed before 10-11pm:  Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. While nothing special happens to you or the quality of your sleep at the stroke of midnight, many do wonder: What’s the best time to go to bed? Dr. Mark Walker says your sleep quality does change as the night wears on. “The time of night when you sleep makes a significant difference in terms of the structure and quality of your sleep,” he explains. Your slumber is composed of a series of 90-minute cycles during which your brain moves from deep, non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep to REM sleep. “That 90-minute cycle is fairly stable throughout the night,” Walker explains. “But the ratio of non-REM to REM sleep changes.”

8) Meditation: Whether you like to pray, journal, practice breathing techniques, yoga, etc. All of these things help calm you down and relax you before bed!

9) Create a nightly/bedtime routine: Having a nightly bedtime routine is just as important as having a routine for everything else. It teaches your body consistency and when you are going through your night time routine, your body knows and understands that it's time to wind down and get ready for bed. 

Sleep supplements that actually work: 

  • Magnesium – almost everyone is short on it – try up to 400 mg.  Too much will give you disaster pants (i.e. gut discomfort/loose stools), which doesn’t help you sleep! The best forms are the *ates, including malate, citrate, aspartate, and others.

  • Potassium – synergistic with magnesium; the combination will remove nighttime leg cramps for most people.  Less cramps equals more sleep. My preferred forms are citrate and the harder to find potassium bicarbonate. The bicarbonate form is a part of the kreb’s energy cycle and can help you make more ATP.  All potassium supplements can conceivably interrupt your heart, so you should not mega-dose. I take 400mg of potassium citrate at bedtime. Start with 100-200 and work your way up from there if you feel you need more. (you very well may)

  • L-theanine in capsule form (not tea) helps with relaxation. 

  • Chamomile tea actually does help you sleep.  

  • GABA is a neuro-inhibitory transmitter.  It’s what your brain uses to shut itself down.  Taken away from any other protein, it will dramatically calm you.  Start with 500mg.  

  • Ornithine is a relaxing amino acid that helps your body to eliminate ammonia in the gut (excess ammonia causes stressful feelings).  Some people sleep MUCH better with ornithine.  Try 1-5 grams.  It may improve growth hormone levels too.  Arginine is stimulating for some people so be careful.  Arginine also releases nitric oxide to cause capillary dilation, which is why it’s included in “natural enhancement” formulas for men.

  • 5-htp is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, the neurohormones that make you happy and sleep, respectively. 5-HTP is converted from the amino acid tryptophan, then converted into those helpful neurotransmitters. But your body can sometimes struggle with these conversions. Supplementing with 5-HTP — which readily crosses the blood-brain-barrier to create the happy hormone serotonin — is the easiest way to organically support your levels of mood-lifting and sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Basically, you’re giving your body a little break at making the chemical conversions itself. This can be super helpful if you’re having trouble sleeping. Cycle on and off with this one or use as needed.

  • L-tryptophan is powerful stuff, especially taken with GABA. People who tell you to eat turkey or milk for the trace amounts of tryptophan in them are doing their best to help you, but it doesn’t work at those concentrations, except maybe as a placebo. There is evidence that a high-tryptophan diet is unhealthy, so only use this stuff if you need it to fall asleep.

  • Melatonin is a potent hormone and antioxidant which your body is supposed to produce on its own if you get real darkness and enough sleep.  Since you probably get neither, and especially if you’re having trouble falling asleep, try taking a low-dose bioavailable source of melatonin. There is an open debate around whether you should supplement every day and risk further depressing your natural production, or do it occasionally.  Most melatonin supplements are way too strong – the best dose is about 300 mcg, but the common dosage you can buy is 3 mg (3,000 mcg). Unless you’re shifting your sleep time to earlier or later, I don’t recommend using melatonin without fully understanding what it does. 

References: 

Breus, M. J. (2013, December 16). New Details on Caffeine's Sleep-Disrupting Effects. Retrieved January 01, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleep-newzzz/201312/new-details-caffeine-s-sleep-disrupting-effects

K. (2017, September 08). Sleep Statistics The State of Sleep in America. Retrieved January 01, 2018, from https://www.sleepphones.com/Sleep-Statistics-The-State-of-Sleep-in-America

The Best Sleep Supplements: Fall Asleep Fast with Biochemistry. (2017, September 08). Retrieved January 01, 2018, from https://blog.bulletproof.com/sleep-hacking-part-3-falling-asleep-fast-with-biochemistry/

The science of sleeping in a cool room | Health. (2017, August 02). Retrieved January 01, 2018, from https://sleepjunkies.com/health/science-sleeping-cool-room/

What's the Best Time to Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved January 01, 2018, from http://time.com/3183183/best-time-to-sleep/


Lauren Bordelon